Intensity is etched on every player's face as they race up and down thecourt in a lively scrimmage.
Chassie Wiersma of Crater streaks in for a left-handed layup on the fastbreakafter taking a bullet pass from teammate Karyn Ross.
Seconds later, guard Elizabeth Carr of Silverton buries a 3-point basket.
Then 6-foot-2 Pam Frei of Klamath Union powers the ball to the basketand scores, drawing a foul in the process.
Have you ever seen girls play basketball like THAT? coachMike Kay asks a bystander in the gym.
Never, the bystander says.
Indeed, the collection of girls in the Crater High School gym is probablythe best at the high school level to ever set foot in the Rogue Valley.
The all-star team, comprised primarily of players from Southern Oregon,has been practicing at Crater the past two weeks for a 21-day trip thatwill see them play 30 to 35 games against some of the best high school competitionin the country.
The team headed north Thursday for a 64-team tournament this weekendat Oregon City High School. It will then travel south for similar tournamentsin San Francisco and Ventura, Calif.
It meets an all-star squad from Texas in its first game today at OregonCity.
I've never played with girls who are anywhere near this good,says Dolinda Meeker, a point guard from St. Mary's High in Medford. Everyonehas tremendous skills. It's a lot of fun to be a part of this.
Other local players are Becky Gregory of Eagle Point, Ericka Brosterhousof North Medford, Stacy Kleir of Grants Pass, Sarah Wolf of Roseburg, Freiof Klamath Union and Wiersma, Ross and Teri Schneider of Crater.
The team also picked up Carr and Lauren Dickman of Silverton.
Not only will the games against all-star squads from other states sharpenthe girls' skills, they will serve as an opportunity for the girls to showcasetheir dribbling, shooting, rebounding and defense to college coaches whowill be on hand at each of the tournaments.
The so-called viewing period for college coaches began on July 1.
In the next 21 days, these girls are going to be looked at by hundredsof coaches, says Crater coach Dave Heard, who is coaching the SouthernOregon team along with North Medford's Kay. It's a chance for allof these kids to win a scholarship. In some cases you're talking about somethingthat's worth $100,000.
The stage they're about to walk on is a big one.
For Meeker, the tournaments will provide exposure she would never otherwiseget. The graceful, 5-foot-5 point guard has gone largely unnoticed at St.Mary's, a Class 2A school where crowds are small and media attention limited.
I'm sure I'll be a little nervous at first, Meeker admits,but after a couple trips up the court, I'll just forget where I'mat and play basketball.
Meeker, who led St. Mary's in virtually every statistical category, hashad to adjust her game with the all-stars.
I've passed up a lot of shots probably too many, shesays. And you can't be careless with the ball or somebody will takeit. But the good thing is that everyone can handle the ball. You can trusteverybody to catch your passes.
The team's other point guard Gregory played brilliantly inpractice Wednesday, burying pull-up jumpers and taking the ball to the basketwith authority.
Meeker and Gregory have similar styles and ability, but Gregory has hadthe advantage of facing tougher competition throughout her career.
I'm a senior and I feel comfortable, Gregory says.
So does Carr, the Silverton guard who made eight 3-point baskets in agame against Canby last season. Carr was gun-shy in earlier workouts butsank several perimeter shots during practices Wednesday and Thursday.
It's a well-rounded team, Heard says. We've got twogreat point guards (Meeker and Gregory), a couple of nice shooting guards(Carr and Wiersma) and our big kids are very agile.
We're going to be seeing some great competition, but I think thesekids will be up for the challenge.
Girls basketball in Southern Oregon has come a long way in thelast few years.